This 15-Second Happiness Trick Got Me Out of My Post-Breakup Slump


There’s something undeniably refreshing about the start of a new year—and even more so one that kicks off a new decade. It feels like a built-in reset button—a brief moment of pause—to reflect and reassess how to make life a little sweeter. But whether it’s January 1st, May 13th, or any odd- or even-numbered day in between, there's no wrong moment to focus on your happiness, and this 15-second do-anywhere trick is proven to do exactly that. 

First, a quick background story. It all started with a breakup—ugh. We’ve all been there and there’s no way to sugarcoat it; they suck. Ironically, it was three years ago during this emotionally painful time in my life that I began a happiness practice that has since changed my life and inspired an entire business. It was a Tuesday afternoon in August 2017 when a close friend of mine called to check in on me. “Stop what you’re doing, flip to the back of your notebook, and write down these three things," he instructed. "What made you smile today, what are you excited for this week, and what’s something you want to accomplish over the next few days?” Equal parts appreciative and annoyed because of the classic “no one can possibly understand” post-breakup mentality, I complied—and have continued this happiness ritual ever since. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it was in this moment that the Happy Notes Book concept was born.

What made you smile today, what are you excited for this week, and what’s something you want to accomplish over the next few days?

In the days, weeks, and months that followed, I used this 15-second daily "happy notes" practice to reset my mind when it threatened to spiral into heart-breaking panic and angst. Despite pushing through a less happy time in my life, I was not oblivious to the fact that there were plenty of happy moments happening (and many to look forward to). However, something about writing these memories down boosted my mood in a way that simply thinking about them didn’t. As friends and family encountered their own life trials and tribulations, I shared this 15-second happiness trick with them and told them how it had helped boost my well-being. I was blown away by the outpouring of gratitude that followed. I was so inspired by the impact this simple daily trick was having on the people around me that I sought out to design a notebook that brought this exact concept to life. I was also of the belief that a busy mind has less time to dwell, so a passion project on the topic of happiness was a welcome relief for my over-analytical brain.

During this time, I became fascinated with the science of happiness. What makes humans happy and why? It was alarming to me how our mental and physical health were regarded so differently in society today. You can tell someone you work out five times a week and they are usually impressed by your dedication and how you prioritize your health. But if you share that you meditate, see a therapist, or journal daily, the response is oftentimes a concerned, "Is everything okay?"

Diving further down the rabbit hole, I enrolled in a free online course from Yale called The Science of Well-Being, taught by Dr. Laurie Santos. The learnings were captivating. A notion like "Happiness is not absolute" felt simple and strikingly obvious, yet so easily overlooked. The message stuck with me. You don’t achieve happiness one day and lock in that pleasant, smiley euphoria for the rest of your life. In the same way that physical fitness requires regular weekly exercise, mental “fitness” requires the same regular attention. And lucky for us, it doesn’t have to involve more than 15-seconds a day.

happy notes

As a writer, the gratitude journaling process always posed a challenge for me. I found it hard to find the words—or the time—to regularly articulate my feelings and thoughts on blank pages (or overly-prompted ones). And while I love a beautiful gratitude journal as much as anyone, I found that they inevitably ended up in a pile under my nightstand with few, if any, entries filled in. Thus, the design for Happy Notes Book was born. In an effort to keep ‘happy notes’ inexcusably convenient during my day-to-day life, the Happy Notes Book was designed as a traditional daily lined notebook working in the front direction, and as a gratitude "happy notes" practice working in the backwards direction. With everything in one notebook, it was the mental happiness practice I could regularly stick with to reap the benefits of a happier mind. 

The first 140 lined pages are intended to be used in whatever fashion you usually use your daily notebook. For me, it’s for daily work to-do lists, for others it’s poetry, sketches, or life to-dos. There is also one prompt, “daily smile”, on the bottom of each page to help kick start the Happy Notes habit. The last 60 pages are for you to really dive into your Happy Notes’. There are three prompts per page: "Moments of Joy" to jot the everyday moments in life that leave you smiling; "Excited For" to look forward to the adventures and smiles in the days ahead; and “To Accomplish” to set intentions, like calling grandma, completing a killer workout, writing a thank you note, or trying a new recipe. Some of my favorite moments are on Sunday or Monday mornings, when I’ll take a minute to read through some past happy notes and relive all the smiles. It’s amazing how many moments you’d be quick to forget if you didn’t jot them down. 

One year ago, my shipment of The Happy Notes Book was delivered. It was the day that a palette of 1,000 notebooks was dropped in my driveway hours before a snowstorm with only my mom home to accept and unload the thousand-pound shipment. My angel mother spent her day shuttling over 55 boxes (each weighing over 20 lbs) into our house, safe from the looming snow blanket. Grateful doesn’t even come close to covering my feelings for this saint of a woman. 

Find a smile in every day and write that baby down.

The concept for the Happy Notes Book is simple: find a smile in every day and write that baby down. It takes less than 15 seconds to do so. Sometimes it’s the smallest, simplest things—a spontaneous encounter at the grocery store, an awesome cup of coffee to kick start your day, belting out your favorite shower ballad. It’s these everyday moments in life that aren’t measured by a "like" button that make life beautiful. If there is one thing you choose to do today, tomorrow, this month, this year, or this decade, I hope it is to take 15 seconds a day to remember a smile, or share one with someone. Fun fact: sharing a moment of joy with someone, albeit across a table, or via text, phone, email, or snail mail, has exponential impact on your well-being. (It's proven: an 80-year-ongoing study on happiness from researchers at Harvard found that the number-one thing that contributes to happiness and well-being is healthy relationships.) It’s also the reason why you’ll find a blank card and stamped envelope tucked inside every Happy Notes Book to inspire you to cultivate relationships and share happiness. Here’s to making this the happiest decade yet.

Here’s a look at happy notes from this week:

happy notes

Shop the Happy Notes Book ($24) and follow @happynotesbook

Article Sources
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  1. Tanzer JR, Weyandt L. Imaging happiness: meta analysis and reviewJ Happiness Stud. 2019. doi:10.1007/s10902-019-00195-7

  2. Mineo L. Good genes are nice, but joy is better. Harvard Gazette. April 11, 2017.

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